As we have seen, we can be quite happy with some of the teachings of Calvinism, especially unconditional election and the preservation of saints – at least when properly defined! Equally, we have been clear in strongly disagreeing with other points, especially limited atonement. Of course, what we have said is not new, but it has been the generally agreed point of view in assemblies of the Lord’s people for nearly two centuries (see C.H. Mackintosh’s piece on one-sided theology at www. stempublishing.com and Sovereignty And Responsibility, by F. B. Hole at www.biblecentre.org). However, before we conclude this series, there are a few extra things to consider.
Simple illustrations of the “Balanced View”
The two great Victorian preachers, D. L. Moody and C. H. Spurgeon had quite diverse views on Calvinism. Moody was very much an anti-Calvinist, while Spurgeon has been called “the greatest English Calvinist of the 19th century” (F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, Paternoster Press, Exeter, 1972). Given this dichotomy, it is quite remarkable that between them they have supplied us with the simple, but helpful illustrations we often hear quoted about the fact that divine sovereignty and human responsibility happily coexist. Moody used to illustrate the point by saying, “On a beautiful mansion, above the portico on the door are the words, ‘Whosoever will may come.’ You go inside because that is what it says. ‘Whosoever will come on in.’ You come inside. You turn around and you look. Above the door on the inside is, ‘Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.’” (Moody also used to say, “The elect are the whosoever wills and the non-elect are the whosoever won’ts!”)
In a sermon entitled “Sovereign Grace and Man’s Responsibility,” originally delivered on Sunday morning, August 1, 1858, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens, London, Spurgeon preached “That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring …You ask me to reconcile the two. I answer, they do not want any reconcilement; I never tried to reconcile them to myself, because I could never see a discrepancy … Both are true; no two truths can be inconsistent with each other; and what you have to do is to believe them both.”
Is faith a gift from God?
Calvinists insist that faith is a gift from God and is not part of man’s responsibility. At first sight two verses seem to support this view. First, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph 2: 8, 9). Experts in New Testament Greek, including Dean Alford, F. F. Bruce, A. T. Robertson, W. E. Vine, C. I. Scofield, Kenneth S. Wuest, Marvin R. Vincent, and many others, tell us the construction of the Greek in Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it impossible for faith to be the gift spoken of: so the phrase “it is the gift of God,” refers to the whole subject being dealt with, i.e., salvation by grace through faith, and not to faith. Secondly, Peter wrote, “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us” (2Peter 1:1). Once again it looks as if faith is a gift. However, William Kelly in his commentary on this epistle (Stempublishing.com) explains that faith here refers “to what is believed,” i.e., faith seen objectively and not subjectively. So the command is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
We can conclude by once again quoting the words of William Kelly. In his commentary on the prophet Hosea he wrote: “The tendency of all men is to become what people call either Arminians or Calvinists; and a hard thing it is to hold the balance of truth without wavering to either side. There is nothing, however, too hard for the Lord; and the Word of God is the unfailing preservative from either one or the other. I am perfectly persuaded … that neither Arminianism nor Calvinism is in the Bible, and that they are both thoroughly wrong without even the smallest justification. The fact is, that the tendency to either is deeply seated in unrenewed minds. That is, the same man may be an Arminian at one time and a Calvinist at another and it is likely that, if he has been a violent Arminian one day, he may become a violent Calvinist tomorrow. But the roots of both lie in man and in his one-sidedness. The truth of God is in His word as the revelation of Christ by the Spirit, and nowhere else.”
Calvinism and Arminianism are both wrong because they put reason above revelation. Let us stand neither with the Calvinists and rob man of his responsibility, nor with the Arminians and rob God of His sovereignty.
We can do no better in concluding this series to quote the wise words of C. F. Hogg: “It is no small comfort to know that … the electing grace of God leads to Christ. The will of man submitted to God also leads to Christ. Some day …we will see how these two factors in the life of man meet in Christ … meanwhile, the secret of peace and effective service is to trust implicitly in, and unhesitatingly preach, the wisdom and truth of the God Who is love.” (What Saith the Scripture? Pickering and Inglis, London, 1947).